If Derrick Henry is the face and the heart of the Titans franchise, then D’Onta Foreman might be its soul.
Foreman, who began the 2022 season out of football until the Titans re-signed him to help replace the injured Henry in November, rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s AFC South championship-clinching win against the Miami Dolphins.
That a guy like Foreman would have a starring role in Tennessee’s unlikely ascent to the top of the AFC this season is somehow appropriate for someone who spent the first half of the season on his couch hoping another chance would come his way.
Foreman, a former third-round pick of the Houston Texans, had bounced from there to the Titans last year. He then signed by the Atlanta Falcons, only to be let go in final cuts this summer.
Foreman is a typical Titan, though, playing a key role on a team that has used an NFL-record 88 players and amazingly sits only a win away (at Houston Sunday) from clinching the top overall AFC seed heading into the playoffs.
“I’m really at a loss for words right now,’’ Foreman says. “I’m just thankful and blessed to be in this position. God is so good.
“Just being at home I would say to myself, ‘Man, I just want an opportunity. If somebody would give me an opportunity and trust, I felt like I could just go out there and play my game and play well.
“Unfortunately, certain situations happened that led me here, but I’m thankful to be here, and every time I step out on that field, I just want to go out there and give it my all and show that I deserve to be here and that I deserve to be in the league somewhere.”
When Henry first went down, the Titans already had third-down back Jeremy McNichols. They added Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard to form a running back committee.
At first, the carries were split relatively evenly among the three. But as the season has progressed, it is obvious that Foreman is now the chairman of that committee. His 26 carries Sunday for 132 yards said that loud and clear.
Foreman, who now has 497 yards rushing in eight games, admits it took a while for him to get used to being a featured back again. Sunday’s effort was a career-high and his third 100-yard rushing game since joining the Titans.
“I have been feeling it the last few weeks, just getting more comfortable. Just getting back to the flow of everything. I was at home, and when you first come back it’s not easy to just jump in and just go have 100-yard games or just go out there and be explosive. So, it takes time, you know?” he adds.
Coach Mike Vrabel says guys like Foreman and others who found themselves out of football have been so productive for the Titans because they cherish a second chance to play in the NFL.
“I think it’s a resolve by the type of people that are in our building that we’ve tried to bring in,” he says. “I’ve tried not to panic when things come up. We just deal with it. We explain to them, we show them history of guys that have gone in and taken advantage of opportunities, have gone on to have great careers.
“I think that they have seen other players on our team go in when guys are down, and we’ve had some guys that have helped us out that didn’t have jobs.
“Buster Skrine was out of work. D’Onta Foreman was out of work. And when you get that opportunity, you’re not in a big hurry to give it up. And that’s what some of those guys have done.”
It can be daunting to try to fill in for a player of Henry’s stature – sort of like being tasked with trying to replace Michael Jordan or Mickey Mantle. How did Foreman approach that assignment?
“I think my approach was not to try to fill big shoes,” he says. “I think the approach was just to go out there and play my game and do what I could do to help the team,” Foreman says.
“Derrick is Derrick. He’s a great running back – I think the best in the league. To be able to come in and just try to help this team and fill in where he left off, it was a challenge for sure.
“But I’m a competitor, and I didn’t want nobody to look at me like I couldn’t do it. I never tried to compare myself to him or do anything that he was doing. I just wanted to be as effective as I could be and help this team win games.”
And in typical Titans fashion.
Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.